Students today may be engaged in many interesting activities, but if we’re not teaching them to think critically then we’re doing them, and ourselves, a disservice.
A recent article by a Yale PhD student stresses how students’ resumes are well padded, but they lack the ability to think critically, and this needs to be addressed in education (Forget Resume Padding; Stress Critical Thinking). We couldn’t agree more
Intelligent Management developed its Decalogue methodology in Europe and was invited to bring its management approach based on critical, systemic thinking to collaborate with broad spectrum projects in North America. The experience so far has been positive, largely thanks to the ‘can do’ attitude in the USA, as well as an ability in America to embrace new approaches.
One of the most challenging aspects of our work is convincing people that in order to do the right thing, managerially, ethically and profitably, they first have to engage their brain in critical thinking. This is the ‘brain trainer’ aspect of our work. This is hard for two major reasons. Firstly, many people associate studying, learning and analyzing with the school period of their lives. In this way they dangerously underestimate the complexity of today’s world that requires continuous learning. Secondly, there is a deep-rooted, culturally ingrained belief that you have to keep doing things, keep busy, keep your plate filled with a multitude of tasks in order to be a good company member. This leaves very little space, or cognitive ability, to think and plan. More crucially, it undermines any ability to understand the systemic implications of decisions and actions over time.
Work ethic does not equal being busy
Confusing work ethic with plate-filling (being busy) is costly and destructive. It jeopardizes people’s ability to find the mental space and discipline to sit down and focus before launching into the habitual stream of things to do. And so, when things go wrong, they are seen as inevitable. After all, hours and hours of work have gone into people making their best efforts. And then more time and money has to be spent to put things right. But as W. Edwards Deming has taught us, best efforts will not substitute for knowledge. Only chaos can come from instigating solutions without a profound understanding of what is going on. This is tampering. Instead, all the time invested upstream in critical analysis and planning will save huge amounts of time and money down the line. People really struggle with buying into that. The result is a widespread waste of money, resources, and intelligence.
Tools for Thinking and Doing Better
At Intelligent Management, we transfer the ability to systemically think, analyze, plan and take informed actions using the powerful Thinking Process Tools. These are a set of logical tools that form part of the Theory of Constraints developed by Eliyahu Goldratt. These tools enable people to solve conflicts without compromise, to foster the ability to perceive and address negative implications, and to create robust, breakthrough solutions and strategies through the continuous challenging of assumptions. When used on a regular basis, the Thinking Process Tools train our brains not just to think better and smarter, but to develop intelligent emotions. When our emotions are intelligent, we evolve to a whole new level of intelligence that enables us to think and act in an intrinsically ethical and sustainable way.
We have the science, the knowledge and the tools to think and do better. Instead of encouraging young people to fill their plate with resume padding activities, we can teach them to think critically and systemically. In this way the new generations will have a greater ability to make their own life choices and they will be able better equipped to contribute to and lead any organization, at every level. We all stand to gain.